Learner drivers are having their tests canceled ‘at the last minute’ and without warning, according to some driving instructors in Blackburn and Darwen.
A number of instructors have spoken out after three examiners allegedly left students standing on the day of their tests.
The situation was further exacerbated by claims that students were being told to wear face masks and instructors were being told they could not sit in the back seat during testing, despite the change in rulings on coronaviruses on march 1.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) said a “constructive” meeting took place at the Blackburn Test Center in Lower Darwen on Thursday and that “colleagues are aware of the recent rule changes”.
The test center was said to have experienced “high levels of staff absences”, leading to last-minute test cancellations.
The DVSA announced on Monday, including an email to all approved driving instructors, that test takers were no longer required to wear face coverings during driving tests. The announcement also means instructors are now allowed to sit in the back of cars during testing.
Driving instructors from the Blackburn and District Driving Instructors Association (BDDIA) and the East Lancashire Driving Instructors Association (ELDIA) met with the operational managers of the Blackburn Test Center in Lower Darwen.
Tony Pearson, who has been a driving instructor for 31 years, said the relationship between instructors and examiners had “completely broken down”.
He said: “It has gotten to a point where some people are going against the guidelines set by the DVSA.
“It’s become an ‘us and them’ issue, which isn’t fair to the students.
“We feel that students are being used as political pawns in disagreements between examiners and the DVSA.”
On Wednesday, some students who had waited months for a test were told there were ‘no examiners available’.
Lynda Brooks, a driving instructor for 17 years, said: “It’s completely unfair to the students. Many have waited months for a test, only to be told at the very last minute that there were “no reviewers available”.
“It’s unacceptable when they’ve put in so much effort.
“They are then told to come back in August – that is another five months.
ELDIA’s Faruq Patel said: “I think sometimes they’re just looking for an excuse to cancel the tests. This is very unfair to students who have worked hard and waited months for their tests.
DVSA guidelines have been sent indicating which state masks are not required inside vehicles and instructors can sit in the back and observe, as rulings were before the pandemic.
Mr Pearson added: ‘What we want is better communication so that we can then pass that on to the students.’
A medical student had her test canceled twice.
She said: “My test two weeks ago was canceled with little notice and rescheduled for March 2.
“When I arrived at the test center on Wednesday, I waited over 20 minutes when I was informed that my test was canceled again.
“It’s incredibly frustrating because it’s hard to rearrange my schedule and I had already taken a major day off from my training.
“Due to the lack of tests I was given one one day which will also be extremely busy. It also casts me in an unprofessional light and is frustrating for my teachers and colleagues. I hope this issue will be addressed and resolved quickly.
Another student whose test was canceled said: ‘My test was on Friday (March 4) – it was just cancelled. I’m paying for all these lessons out of my own pocket for something I won’t be doing. This causes me a lot of hassle and stress.
A third student said: ‘I booked my test over six months ago and was really disappointed when we arrived at the test center and had to wait 30 minutes for an examiner who did not show up. present.
“I have not been contacted about a cancellation and feel very angry after waiting months for this test and being treated so badly.”
A DVSA spokesperson said: “Following a constructive meeting on Thursday March 3, DVSA and the local instructors have agreed to maintain an open dialogue and ensure the relationship remains on good terms.
“Wearing a face covering is a personal choice during driving tests and instructors can now take part in the tests again.
“DVSA has ensured that all colleagues are aware of the recent rule changes.”